Reading Specialist Certification Program

School of Behavioral Sciences and Education

The Reading Specialist Certification Program at Penn State Harrisburg is designed to provide full-time and part-time graduate students with a focused program of study leading to a Pennsylvania Department of Education certificate as a reading specialist. The program is aligned with the standards of the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Following successful completion of the program, students are eligible to take the Praxis examination for certification as a reading specialist (K-12). Specifically, the goals of the program are to develop in students: (1) specialized, in-depth knowledge about the teaching of reading and writing; (2) the clinical skills necessary for diagnosing and intervening with reading disabled students; (3) the ability to interpret and to evaluate literacy research, (4) the literacy leadership skills necessary to support the professional practices in a K-12 setting; (5) provide rigorous offerings aligned with the standards of the International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE); and (6) prepare students for the complexities they will face as reading specialists in schools serving the K-12 population.

Degree Conferred: Certification only

Program Requirements for Admission

Admission is on a rolling basis. Candidates must meet the following admission requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with an overall GPA of at least 3.0 out of 4.0. An applicant must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.
  • Official transcripts of undergraduate and/or graduate course work
  • A state-issued teaching certificate
  • Completed graduate school online application
  • Updated resume
  • Two letters of recommendation


Candidates must maintain a minimum 3.00 grade point average, satisfactorily complete all required key assessments, attain a grade of "C" or better in all required core courses. Candidates who do not make satisfactory progress will be notified in writing noting the specific deficiencies and requesting that they meet with the program coordinator to develop a remediation plan. Failure to meet or to satisfactorily complete the remediation plan will result in termination from the program.

All persons enrolled in Teacher Education Programs at Penn State Harrisburg are expected to demonstrate the professional dispositions that are aligned with the unit’s vision statement. The faculty shall evaluate the approved dispositions demonstrated by the candidates in class and during their clinical field experience. Candidates may be rated as exemplary, acceptable, or unacceptable. Candidates are expected to attain acceptable or exemplary ratings in order to graduate.

Students who wish to pursue Reading Specialist Certification as part of the Master’s in Education in Literacy Education must talk to their adviser early so that they can take the proper course sequence and meet all program requirements.

Certification Requirements

The Reading Specialist Certification program consists of 18 credits in required courses and 6 credits from electives. Candidates must also have the program prerequisites of PSYCH 410 Child Development and PSYCH 412 Adolescence, and Methods in the Teaching of Reading.  

Each candidate will participate in EDUC 564 Reading Clinic, the final capstone course, which fulfills 6 credits from the required program of study. At the conclusion of all program requirements, candidates must take the Reading Specialist exam to become certified in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Course Requirements

The curriculum for the Reading Specialist Certificate (K-12) is designed to provide candidates with opportunities to build specialized knowledge, engage in principled practice in supervised settings, and prepare for leadership roles in schools and school districts. The curriculum addresses the International Reading Association's Standards for Reading Professionals (2010) in the areas of:

  • Foundational Knowledge                                                                 
  • Curriculum and Instruction                                                             
  • Assessment and Evaluation                                           
  • Diversity                                                                                   
  • Literate Environment                                                                                                                                  *Professional Learning and Leadership

Prescribed Core Course Requirements (18 credits)

  • EDUC 466   Foundations of Teaching ESL Language (online) or LLED 445 Teaching English in Bilingual/Dialectical Education (3)
  • EDUC 477  Teaching Struggling Readers and Writers (3)
  • EDUC 562  Diagnostic Evaluation of Reading Problems (3)
  • EDUC 563  Advanced Methods in Teaching Reading (3)
  • EDUC 564  Reading Clinic (Capstone course) (6)

Electives (6 credits)

Select two (2) of the following Literacy Course options:

  • EDUC 422  Literature for Children and Adolescents (3)
  • EDUC 432  Children’s Literature and Writing (3)
  • EDUC 425  Literacy Assessment (3)
  • EDUC 452  Teaching Writing (3)
  • EDUC 471  Best Practices in Literacy (3)

Many of the literacy courses are offered via hybrid and traditional formats. Please contact the program coordinators for more information.

Important note:  The following courses have approved by The Pennsylvania Department of Education, July 2012, to meet Accommodations and Adaptations for Diverse Learners in Inclusive Settings and English Language Learners: EDUC 477 & EDUC 466/LLED445.

Transfer Credits

Subject to the limitations given below, a maximum of 10 credits of high-quality graduate work done at an accredited institution may be applied toward the requirements for the certification program. The student should distinguish carefully between the transferability of credit and its applicability in a particular program. Approval to apply any transferred credits toward a  program must be granted by the student's academic adviser, the program head or graduate officer, and the Graduate School. Transferred academic work must have been completed within five years prior to the date of first degree registration at the Graduate School of Penn State, must be of at least B quality (grades of B- are not transferable), and must appear on an official graduate transcript of an accredited university. Pass-fail grades are not transferable to an advanced degree program unless the "Pass" can be substantiated by the former institution as having at least B quality.

Forms for transfer of credit can be obtained from the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services, 114 Kern Building.

Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 599 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit courses below the 400 level in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.

Applying for Certification

The Pennsylvania Department of Education requires that each candidate submit his/her application online using the Teacher Information Management System (TIMS) at Application should be made after the completion of all requirements which includes obtaining a passing score on the Reading Specialist Praxis Exam and receiving one’s final GPA.

Please note that the Praxis exam is a fee-based test and test takers must individually register for the exam. All scores must be reported to Penn State Harrisburg and The Pennsylvania Department of Education. For more information about the Praxis exam, go to their web site at or call 1-800-772-9476